King Street north of Calhoun Street was a busy place when Charleston Mayor Joe Riley was growing up in the 1950s, with now-long-gone stores such as Edwards, Condon's and Fox Music helping to anchor the street. The area has greatly transformed since then, but he sees vitality along the strip and the promise of greater diversity to come.

Riley says the current bar and restaurant scene has re-activated many of Upper King's buildings and lured people there. While he doesn't think there are too many food and beverage establishments, he sees them as part of a passing phase for the corridor.

"I think if you go 10 years out, you'll see a smaller percentage of restaurants and bars and more retail and office," he says.

He notes that a new condominium project has been proposed for Woolfe Street and that the Magnifilous Toy Emporium at 525 King is doing well. "King Street is going to be diverse," he says.

Riley's experience with the new Upper King has been of people strolling streets and "enjoying the public realm. It's wonderful."

In response to the growth, the city wants to add a 300-vehicle parking garage on St. Philip Street, near the emerging Midtown development. Charleston's planning director, Tim Keane, says better public transit also could be part of King's future. "We just have to have alternatives to driving," he says.

Keane says what's different about Charleston is that many national retailers want to be downtown rather than at a suburban retail center, such as Charlotte's SouthPark mall. "It's really unusual for a city to have that condition," he says.

Robert Behre